By Pam Greenberg
A recent survey of bill drafters by a Boston University School of Law professor shows most are highly satisfied with the technology they use.
In a keynote speech delivered in March this year, Professor Sean J. Kealy described results of his survey of professional and nonpartisan drafting offices in the states. His survey asked the following questions:
- How satisfied are drafters with the technology in their office and for their legislature?
- What technological change has made the greatest impact—either positively or negatively—on their work?
- Has technology changed the way they draft or assess legislation?
- Has technology changed the legislative process in a positive or negative way? and
- Has the legislature, as an institution or in part, resisted technology based changes?
Kealy received responses from nearly 20 states, and found that the respondents had a combined 517 years of legislative drafting experience, with an average career of nearly 23 years. When asked about their level of satisfaction with the quality of technology they use, the drafters gave an average rating of 8.37.
Technologies identified by drafters as having the greatest impact on or changing the way bill drafting is done included the Internet, email, networks, drafting platforms and session management systems, such as those with search and bill tracking functions.
The respondents did not perceive a great deal of resistance by legislators or staff to changes in technology, and most resistance was short lived or was related to the costs of implementing new technologies.
When asked if technology changed the legislative process in a positive or negative way, drafters mentioned improved efficiency, speed and accuracy. But drafters also noted increased expectations about how quickly bill drafts can be prepared, leaving less time for legal research, thorough analysis and careful drafting. Additional concerns about changes in the legislative process were captured in one drafter’s response that “the efficiency of technology is at odds with the deliberation and delay that is so valuable in the legislative process.”
Kealy, who once worked in the Massachusetts Senate, also offers his perspectives and suggestions for changes in rules and policies to allow for more time for drafting and deliberation, among other changes.
Pam Greenberg is a senior fellow at NCSL, where she monitors legislative information technology, privacy, public records and Internet policy issues, topics she has written about extensively.